- H. Maddox, and J.D. McCullough, "The Crystal and Molecular Structure of the Iodine Complex of 1-Oxa-4-selenacyclohexane, C4H8OSe.I2", Inorganic Chemistry, vol. 5, pp. 522-526, 1966. http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/ic50038a006
Ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate reacts with carbon dioxide to produce 3-keto-2-carboxyarabinitol 1,5-bisphosphate as the first step in the biochemical process of carbon fixation. It needs an enzyme to do this (Ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase, or RuBisCO) and lots of ATP (adenosine triphosphate, produced by photosynthesis). Here I ask what the nature of the uncatalysed transition state is, and hence the task that might be facing the catalyst in reducing the activation barrier to that of a facile thermal reaction. I present my process in the order it was done‡.
Conformational analysis comes from the classical renaissance of physical organic chemistry in the 1950s and 60s. The following problem is taken from E. D. Hughes and J. Wilby J. Chem. Soc., 1960, 4094-4101, DOI: 10.1039/JR9600004094, the essence of which is that Hofmann elimination of a neomenthyl derivative (C below) was observed as anomalously faster than its menthyl analogue. Of course, what is anomalous in one decade is a standard student problem (and one Nobel prize) five decades later.
Most scientific theories emerge slowly, over decades, but others emerge fully formed virtually overnight as it were (think Einstein in 1905). A third category is the supernova type, burning brightly for a short while, but then vanishing (almost) without trace shortly thereafter. The structure of DNA (of which I have blogged elsewhere) belongs to the second class, whilst one of the brightest (and now entirely forgotten) examples of the supernova type concerns the structure of proteins. In 1936, it must have seemed a sure bet that the first person to come up with a successful theory of the origins of the (non-random) relatively rigid structure of proteins would inevitably win a Nobel prize. Of course this did happen for that other biologically important system, DNA, some 17 years later. Compelling structures for larger molecules providing reliable atom-atom distances based on crystallography were still in the future in 1936, and so structural theories contained a fair element of speculation and hopefully inspired guesswork (much as cosmological theories appear to have nowadays!).
Like benzene, its fully saturated version cyclohexane represents an icon of organic chemistry. By 1890, the structure of planar benzene was pretty much understood, but organic chemistry was still struggling somewhat to fully embrace three rather than two dimensions. A grand-old-man of organic chemistry at the time, Adolf von Baeyer, believed that cyclohexane too was flat, and what he said went. So when a young upstart named Hermann Sachse suggested it was not flat, and furthermore could exist in two forms, which we now call chair and boat, no-one believed him. His was a trigonometric proof, deriving from the tetrahedral angle of 109.47 at carbon, and producing what he termed strainless rings.
The diagram below summarizes an interesting result recently reported by Hanson and co-workers (DOI: 10.1021/jo800706y. At ~neutral pH, compound 13 hydrolyses with a half life of 21 minutes, whereas 14 takes 840 minutes. Understanding this difference in reactivity may allow us to understand why some enzymes can catalyze the hydrolysis of peptides with an acceleration of up to twelve orders of magnitude.